Fried rice and I go back a long way. As far back as the days of scratch and sniff stickers and Crayola crayons. I don’t think there was ever a week in my childhood that didn’t include at least one meal of fried rice for lunch, dinner, or even breakfast. My brothers and I all loved the stuff, but I think the real reason my mom served it as often as she did was that fried rice is a great way to make use of all the week’s leftovers collecting in the refrigerator. In my mom’s kitchen, food was never wasted.
Now you might be wondering, if fried rice can be made with a bunch of random leftover ingredients, what’s the point of a recipe? It’s a valid question. True, fried rice is one of those dishes that can take a gazillion different forms, depending on your preference for certain vegetables and what you have available. And if I’m to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever made it the same exact way twice.
Nevertheless, this recipe for Vegan Fried Rice serves as a useful reference, especially where the seasonings are concerned. It’s hard to go wrong with just about any of the veggies or other inclusions, but a balanced mix of seasonings and sauces makes all the difference in the background flavor of the fried rice.
Typically seasoned with oyster sauce, this recipe uses an oyster-less version available at many Asian grocery stores. It’s just as flavorful and provides that umami quality of the true oyster sauce. While the fried rice of my youth often featured little slices of the red Chinese lap Cheong sausages, I now use a plant-based alternative if I have it handy, or a marinated tempeh, which is widely used in vegan cooking as a meat substitute. Most of the time, though, I simply leave out the meat counterpart altogether.
The fried shallots in steps 1 and 2 of Turning Plain Rice Into Fried Rice give the dish amazing bursts of savory flavor and a nice crunch factor. My husband says it’s his favorite part of my vegan fried rice. If you’re not typically a fan of onions, you can always skip them. But let me just say that frying shallots transforms the flavor from sharply oniony to pleasantly bitter. I highly recommend trying them at least once, but the fried rice will still be delicious without them.
Garnishes that go really well with fried rice include fresh cilantro, toasted sesame seeds, and that white and orange briny duo of southeast Asian cuisine known as pickled daikon and carrot. If you don’t have a tubful of this stuff in your refrigerator, you can find it in most Asian grocery stores.
Yield: About 8 ½ cups
Total prep time: 30 minutes
Total cook time: 1 hour
Cooking The Jasmine Rice (Ideally at least one day in advance)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
- 3 cups of water
- 2 cups uncooked Jasmine rice, rinsed
The usual golden rule when it comes to food is the fresher the ingredients, the better.
Not so with fried rice. When making fried rice, it’s much better to use rice that’s been cooked and refrigerated at least a day in advance. This is because freshly-cooked rice is soft and contains too much moisture. It becomes mushy and clumpy when cooked further into fried rice. Day-old (or even week old is fine) rice, on the other hand, has lost some of its moisture in the refrigerator and the individual grains hold up much better.
Step 1: Transfer the water to a medium-sized non-stick saucepot.
Step 2: Add the rinsed rice.
Step 3: Place over high heat and bring to a boil.
Step 4: Cover with lid. Reduce heat to low. Let simmer gently for 20 minutes.
Step 5: Remove from heat but don’t open the lid. Let the rice sit covered for 10 minutes.
Step 6: Open the lid and fluff the rice using a spatula or rice paddle.
Step 1: Let cool to room temperature. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Turning Plain Rice Into Fried Rice:
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: About 30 minutes
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- ½ cup shallot, sliced thin
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- ½ large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons vegan oyster sauce (available at most Asian grocery stores)
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (available at most grocery stores)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning powder (available at most Asian grocery stores)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 8 cups cooked Jasmine rice
- 1 ½ cups frozen mixed vegetables
Step 1: Transfer the canola oil to a small non-stick saucepan.
Place over medium-low heat until oil shimmers.
Step 2: Add the shallots.
Cook, stirring frequently until about 80% of the shallots turn deep brown in color. At this point, the shallots will cook quickly, and there’s a very small window between shallots that are deep brown in color and burned shallots. Remove the pan from the heat, but keep stirring. The shallots will continue to cook in the residual heat.
If you wait until all of the shallots turn deep brown before removing from the heat, you will most likely end up with burned shallots, which are overwhelmingly bitter. Depending on the heat from your stovetop, it can take up to 10 minutes to get your shallots to the proper deep brown. Once cooked, set aside.
Step 3: Transfer the sesame oil to a large non-stick skillet or wok.
Place over medium-high heat until oil shimmers.
Step 4: Add onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions turn golden, about 4 min.
Step 5: Add garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, an additional 30 seconds.
Step 6: Add the vegan oyster sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, vegetable broth, mushroom seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper.
Stir to mix. Reduce heat to medium-low.
Step 7: Add the rice. Cook, stirring well to distribute the sauce into the rice, an additional 5 minutes.
Step 8: Add the frozen vegetables and stir to mix.
Cook, stirring occasionally, an additional 3 minutes.
Step 9: Remove from heat. Serve with fried shallots sprinkled over the rice.
Enjoy as-is or with any of the optional garnishes.
- Cilantro, chopped
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Pickled daikon and carrot
Alice Mesa is an environmental scientist turned foodie. She followed her heart away from a 10-year career in the water quality industry and into the kitchen, where she spent the next few years as the owner and operator of a handcrafted vegan chocolates business. Alice combines her passion for cooking with her vegan lifestyle by creating and writing about dishes that are not only delicious, but plant-based as well.